Tournament Time, Title Time
The NC State women have already secured the sixth ACC Championship in school history with a dramatic win over Louisville. Wednesday, the men's team begins its quest for another title.
The ACC men’s basketball tournament, born at Reynolds Coliseum 68 years ago, kicked off Tuesday with three games at the Greensboro Coliseum, but the NC State Wolfpack men of Kevin Keatts plays their first game Wednesday, when it faces Syracuse at noon.
Syracuse beat the Wolfpack twice during the regular season, so Keatts and his squad, which has won five straight games heading into the postseason, hope to avenge those setbacks.
Coaching clichés say it’s hard to beat a team three times in the regular season, and Keatts hopes that’s true.
“I hope it’s correct, but I don’t know if I necessarily believe that,” Keatts said Monday. “A lot of these games are matchups. I compare basketball to boxing. It depends on the guy in front of you and their style of fight. Styles make fights, and one thing I will say about [Syracuse] is it has a unique style.”
The tournament will be played with a limited number of spectators in Greensboro because of on-going COVID restrictions, but it last weekend’s ACC women’s tournament is any indication, there is no less excitement for the event.
Head coach Wes Moore’s NC State Wolfpack women won their second consecutive championship, a program first, thanks to a jumpshot by graduate guard Raina Perez with 2.1 seconds remaining that beat top-seeded Louisville, 58-56. It is the sixth ACC championship in NC State women’s basketball history.
The Wolfpack came back from significant deficits in both the semifinals and finals to secure the trophy.
“This team is just so resilient,” Moore said following Sunday’s game. “They just find a way to win.”
Junior Elissa Cunane became the sixth NC State women’s player to win the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award, joining Genia Beasley (1980), Linda Page (1983), Andrea Stinson (1990), Sharon Manning (1991) and Aislinn Konig (2020).
Keatts, among many others, appreciates the program Moore has built in his time in Raleigh.
“He’s building a really good culture, where those [women] believe they are going to win no matter the situation. In the semifinals and finals, they had some adversity. You could look at them and see they never thought they were going to lose the game.”
By winning the tournament, the Wolfpack earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Championship, which begins next week and will be played entirely in San Antonio, Texas. The men’s NCAA Championship will be played concurrently, with all games played in various locations in Indiana.
“Wes is going to tell you that he doesn’t know how his team is doing it and they are getting lucky, but don’t believe that,” Keatts said. “They have a chance to play for a national championship. I’m not going to jinx them and say they will, but they have a chance.
“That’s a really good basketball team he has put together.”